Hi-Rez Studios, the team that brought you third-person MOBA Smite, took their latest project, Paladins, to open beta on Steam last week . Here’s what it’s about, in case you’ve never heard about it before:
Enter a fantasy world of ancient technology in Paladins, a team-based shooter with strategy elements and deep character customization. Through a unique collectible card system, players can amplify and augment a character’s core set of abilities to play exactly how they want to play.
You may have watched that trailer and thought, “hmmm, some of that sure does resemble another popular team-based shooter on the market”. I know I sure did. Just look at the header image above for example, and tell me that Paladin’s Barik and Fernando don’t immediately remind you of Overwatch’s Torbjörn and Reinhardt.
The idea of the game copying seems to be a general consensus, because since Paladins hit open beta, many have thrown criticism at it, claiming that it has ripped some of its ideas directly from Blizzard’s own team-based shooter. Hi-Rez have since come out and said the following in response (via IGN):
“While Overwatch is a fine game, it was not the inspiration for Paladins. Game development is an interactive process with ideas coming from many past projects. For the hero shooter genre, the game that deserves the most credit is Team Fortress 2. We released a TF2 inspired class-based shooter called Global Agenda way back in 2010. Paladins was conceived as a fantasy version of Global Agenda and of the approximately 85 combat abilities currently in Paladins, the vast majority are from the game Global Agenda we made 10 years ago.
Given the marketing of Overwatch many people do not even realize that some of our champions, like the mini-gun mech (Ruckus) and the ice block character (Evie), were available and playable in the Paladins Beta long before similar character abilities were shown in Overwatch. And specific features, such as Chests, were also demonstrated in Paladins ahead of Overwatch. People who are interested can see all this early gameplay footage on YouTube and come to their own conclusions.”
I can hardly fault that to be honest. It’s true that many games today have taken an idea (or ideas) from elsewhere, and bent it into their own flavour. Just look at the MOBA genre. League of Legends and Dota 2 for example have many characters who at the very least look similar to each other. That, and the primary objective of each is to push down a lane and destroy the enemy team’s main structure.
Overwatch isn’t exactly the most unique game if you step back and remove all the charm and quality that Blizzard have poured into it. They certainly borrowed ideas from countless other shooters themselves.
But they’ve never shied away from admitting that. In just about every developer update I’ve watched, or every statement I’ve read, the Overwatch development team have said that they’re huge fans of shooters. They’ve no doubt taken elements from each of their favourites, and poured it into their own FPS. This is apparent with Soldier: 76 for example, who is the typical Shooty McShooter persona (with built in aimbot as an ulti), or Pharah, whose primary weapon harkens back to Quake and Unreal Tournament.
The problem with Paladins I think, is that nobody really knew much about it until just recently. Now that it’s out in the wild, everyone’s immediate reaction is to call Hi-Rez out on blatantly copying Overwatch.
Did it though? I genuinely did think so myself, but after having read this Reddit post giving a brief history of Paladins (shared by Hi-Rez Studios COO Todd Harris), I’m not entirely sure:
“Overwatch was announced. We were shocked and not sure what direction to take. We were already so far along with Paladins, but we didn’t want to compete directly against Blizzard.
We initially tried to find different ways to differentiate on game-play (different TTK, different style maps and game modes, different theme, etc), but the feedback from our tests, stats, and surveys showed that only a small part of our population was enjoying that style of game. In the end we said screw it and just made what we thought best, and closest to our original vision, even if people would think it’s too close to Overwatch.
We created almost all the Paladins classes and abilities using Global Agenda and Smite as our template. We used our Aurum fantasy theme from 2012 and Smite characters as placeholders (although some like Grover the tree just stayed).
As a last point, it would be almost impossible for a studio of our size to ‘clone’ Overwatch in a year, but Overwatch did have some nice features that we decided to incorporate into Paladins (Kill Cam, Improved Lag comp, some verbiage like ‘eliminations’).”
So Paladins did take a little bit of inspiration from Overwatch. The studio insists though that most of their characters, abilities, and more, existed long before Blizzard’s shooter came out.
Where do we draw the line between blatant copying and taking inspiration? I’d love to hear Blizzard’s comment on this story. Where did they get the ideas for their characters for example? How do they feel about Paladins?
I haven’t played Hi-Rez’s game yet myself, so I can’t really offer fair, objective comment. What’s your take on this whole saga?
Last Updated: September 21, 2016